TMBA553: Protecting Your Passion

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It started with an innocuous-looking image of a yellow aeroplane and ended with a number of threatening letters from a law firm on behalf of the travel site Expedia.

In today’s episode, we bring you the denouement of the story of why we decided to remove ‘that plane’ from our branding.

And, to find out whether we really needed to do it, we’ve invited back our good friend and Intellectual Property (IP) attorney Sarah Kornblet Waldbuesser from Destination Legal.

You’ll also hear Sarah’s thoughts on the best way to protect your brand or logo, how to differentiate between “trademark scams” and what should be taken seriously, and a whole lot more.

See the full transcript below

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • The “Bread and Butter” of Sarah’s business at Destination Legal. (5:13)
  • Why Sarah believes there has been an increase in the “bullying” of online businesses in recent years. (10:16)
  • Sarah’s thoughts on our recent trademark dispute. (15:42)
  • How to recognize trademark scams and how to respond to them. (23:30)
  • How you can protect your own brand with a trademark. (34:05)

 

Mentioned in the episode:

Before the Exit – Our New Book
TMBA Masterminds
Partner With Us
The Dynamite Circle
Dynamite Jobs
Dynamite Deals
Tropical MBA on YouTube
Sarah Kornblet Waldbuesser
Destination Legal
Entrepreneur Magazine
Seth Godin
Stop Bullying the Entrepreneurs by Seth Godin

Enjoyed this podcast? Check out these:

TMBA364: Sometimes the Best Business Idea is the Most Obvious
TMBA501: Cease and Desist
TMBA512: What Happens When Your Product Gets Suspended By Amazon?

 

This week’s sponsor:

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Virtual mail plans start at $19 a month and Earth Class Mail is offering Tropical MBA listeners a 25% discount for your first three months.

All you have to do is head over to EarthClassMail.com/TropicalMBA to take advantage of this great offer.

 

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Thanks for listening to our show! We’ll be back next Thursday morning 8AM EST.

Cheers,

Dan & Ian

 


 

 

Full Transcript

Welcome back. Today we’ve invited back a former guest to kind of have a legal therapy session with, we’re going to let her introduce herself for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Sarah: My name is Sarah Kornblet Waldbuesser It’s a mouthful now, many of the older listeners may know me as Sarah Kornblet back when I was first on the podcast I think maybe three years ago. I am the owner of ‘Destination Lega’l. I am an IP attorney and online business owner. And I help online business owners and coaches protect their businesses with contracts terms, website protections and trademarks. You know, I have the legal shop where I sell download templates. It’s not $8,000, you don’t have to talk to a stuffy lawyer. And then I do trademark registrations, which I love because that gives somebody a business asset. It’s something that they own.

Now, the last time Sarah was on the show, she shared her backstory of how listening to this very podcast commuting to her job at a Chicago Law Firm contributed to her quitting and eventually founding Destination Legal.

I started listening to these two guys, every day, I had like a 20 minute walk to and from work and it’s so interesting, because when I listen to the podcast now the same intro still comes on. And I am taken back to that period of my life where I was so confused and didn’t know what I wanted to do. And then here we are eight years later where I have travelled the world, and I have my own online business. Now I’m married and have a kid. And so having the flexibility of, of this business has really been great. And you know, it all started with this little podcast called the TMBA.

So, we’ll link to that earlier episode of Sarah’s story in the show notes in case you want to check it out. But today, I had to call Sarah because a listener wrote us with a quote unquote legal issue that they’ve been having and we’ve recently been spirit and we’ve recently been experiencing a few of our own.

I think these particular irritations are fairly common amongst people running online businesses. And that’s what we do around here, share stories and insights into the mistakes we’ve made so that you don’t have to.

So I certainly hope some of the general issues and principles today will be useful to you. And just a strong healthy warning here: something I really made clear to Sarah on the phone is – just speak to me entrepreneur to entrepreneur. So what you’re about to hear isn’t legal advice. You really need to consult your own lawyer for that.

Music

Dan: I’m just curious from your desk, how have things changed for online business owners in the Coronavirus from a legal perspective, just the small anecdotes that come across your desk? What have you been seeing?

Sarah: We’ve certainly seen an uptick in people that we’re working more in person moving online. So, we’ve seen a big uptick in like personal trainers, yoga instructors, you know, coaches maybe that we’re doing in person things moving online and doing their yoga classes over zoom. Starting membership sites where they pre record workouts like similar to kind of a Peloton model. We’ve seen an uptick in just business owners finally starting their businesses either because they have the time now, or they got fired or furloughed or whatever.

, I firmly believe the best job security you have is in your own business. So, Corona hit, I have friends that are getting pay cuts, I have friends that you know, are worried about losing their job or their husband losing their job. And fortunately, we don’t have that fear. Of course, there have been online businesses that have been impacted and affected. But as entrepreneurs, you always can figure out another way to make money. So I’ve definitely seen more people being like, ‘My side hustle just like got elevated and I’m spending the time I have at home now to really get this off the ground. So I need my privacy policy. I need my contract. Like let’s get going’.

Dan: What’s your bread and butter? I mean, listeners might remember that we collaborated on a Dynamite Deal where people were genuinely excited about the opportunity to come to you and get their trademark stashed away; That’s like this awesome security blanket like, I know I own Dynamite Jobs like nobody’s gonna I can protect that. What’s like the bread and butter that keeps keeps your rent paid and your the lights on, so to speak?

Sarah: So I would say, you know, trademark registration definitely is a big part of our revenue just because it’s a higher priced offering. And people see real value in owning your brand. So we get a lot of, you know … Amazon now you have to have a trademark to be on a certain part of that platform. And then I work with a tonne of coaches who are building brands and selling courses, wanting trademarks, and then I also sell bundles.

So I sell bundles that include all the legal stuff you need if you’re starting a membership site, if you’re running an online course if you’re a health coach, a coach. I’ve been quite lucky that only in the past eight months did we hire our first like marketing firm to do Facebook ads. I’d never run ads before really. It was just organic marketing and word of mouth so we’ve been lucky, but we probably also left a lot of money on the table. So we have started running our first Facebook ads funnel.

And then I have an affiliate programme. I work with a lot of business coaches who were working with other people that need contracts. So, if you’re a business coach and you’re working with someone that is, you know, a social media manager or a health coach, and they’re starting out, you know, people are like, ‘What do I need legally? What’s the basics? What about my website? I’ve heard I need a privacy policy’.

Dan: It seems like you’ve really gone down like the productize route, packages products. Why haven’t you just gotten like five clients, you know, a lot of wealthy entrepreneurs and stuff, why not do that classic, you know, billable hours approach?

Sarah: Because I am not interested in trading time for money. I enjoy doing trademarks. But my ultimate goal with Destination Legal is to be making enough money just from the template shop, which is basically passive income, to take trademarks if I want to, but not necessarily need them as a source of revenue. I’d love to be able to say, “We’ve, we’ve helped 100,000 business owners get protected”, right? Like, I’d love to have that be a huge chunk of the business, I do enjoy helping brands grow. And I do work with a handful of clients that come back time after time, I have some clients that are on their fifth and sixth trademark that come to me whenever issues pop up.

Dan: That sounds like some people I know. ‘I got a new domain’.

Sarah: I do enjoy that. But I really want to balance it with, I still want the freedom and flexibility that if I want to take six months off, I’m not worried about 10 clients that I need to service.

Dan: Bring me into the mindset here because when I wanted to get a legal document in 2008, I would go to like Zoom legal or whatever and pay him a couple hundred bucks and now like you have destination legal and I pay you a couple hundred bucks to get documents, a lot entrepreneurs are gonna look at that and say, ‘Well, there’s already tonnes of companies selling these sorts of things on the web, what makes you think that you can do it’?

Sarah: Well, ‘LegalZoom’ sucks. I mean, I’m sure they’re wonderful company and I don’t want them to come after me, but it’s not as personal right? And so, especially in the online business world, we talked about this in DC like it’s that one to one connection. I’ve had people that have visited my website, and then I meet them at DCBKK. And only then do they buy for me because they’re like ‘I wanted to meet you’. And you know, I think that’s a big piece of it.

The other is that I know the online industry. So ‘Legal Zoom’. I don’t know if you can get a health coaching contract right, you might be able to get a coaching contract. But do they know the ins and outs of the coaching industry? like I do, right? Like, I know, I’ve worked with a number of SaaS companies like I know what that means I know what they need in their terms of service does ‘LegalZoom’ or some general, ‘plug and play’ template, do they know that? I don’t know. So I think it’s a mix of like, the personal connection. And then understanding that while I’m an attorney. I’m also an online business owner. I also have a website, I’m also doing marketing and so I know what other online business owners need. People don’t necessarily want to just go to Legal Zoom but they also don’t want to go hire a big law firm, it’s just a huge huge market and there’s definitely room for lots of us.

Dan: So I wanted to switch gears to talk to you about something that a lot of people in the community have been facing, especially recently, is kind of legal bullying. And a lot of times it’s a law firm or some kind of intimidating entity will write to us and basically say, a number of different things. I want to talk about some specific examples with you. Is this something that’s been around for a long time or is it recently, has there been more and more legal bullying happening?

Sarah: I think it has been around but to a smaller degree. I do think that we’ve seen an uptick in the last five or 10 years and part of me makes me think it’s because they’re just more online business owners. There’s more websites, there’s more people doing it. It’s something that is really frustrating and it’s really infuriating. You know, in the trademark world, it is a grey area because if you have a trademark, it is your duty to police it, you do have to make sure that other companies aren’t infringing on your trademark, or the USPTO could consider it abandoned.

Dan: So the US Patent?

Sarah: Yep, the US Patent trademark office USPTO.

Dan: Wait, you said you have to defend it or else it gets diluted? What does that mean?

Sarah: So if let’s say you own the trademark for DCBKK and you might run a conference once a year, but you’re not really paying attention. Someone else might start a business. It’s like, you know, JMBKK and you’re just kind of not worried about it. If you don’t go to them and say, you know, you are potentially infringing on our trademark, the USPTO could consider that you’re abandoning your mark, you’re diluting your rights. It’s like part of your obligation as a trademark owner, to just keep an eye out. And so you don’t necessarily have to do this. So something ‘Destination Legal’, we get asked all the time, and we’re putting together an offer for this as ‘trademark monitoring’. So like we would monitor and make sure that you know, nobody else is using anything close to DCBKK.

Dan: That’s cool, so like a low dollar monthly fee and you just ..that’s cool.

Sarah: Exactly. Yeah, cuz that’s not something you should worry about. However, trademark bullies are people that are going after smaller businesses just to scare them and try to get money. And they’re taking this hyper aggressive approach at monitoring their trademark almost to the point that it’s just absurd that doing this. And so, one of the biggest examples that really infuriates me is ‘Entrepreneur Magazine’.

So I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, Seth Godin has wrote about this. This has been going on for years. ‘Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc’. Somehow back in the 80s, I think got the trademark for the word entrepreneur.

Dan: Well, it’s a French word. So I mean it was a little bit unique, I guess.

Sarah: But the whole thing with trademarks is your word has to be distinctive. So if you sell apple pie, you can’t trademark ‘Apple Pie Shop’, right? If you’re ‘Entrepreneur Magazine’, you can’t trademark the word entrepreneur if that’s what you’re doing, but they got it through, right, they got it through. So now, they have hired the second biggest law firm in the world and they’re basically stopping anybody that is trying to use the word entrepreneur or preneur as a trademark

And so as an example, they’ve stopped, you know, things like, I have a list .. the happy entrepreneur, the unstoppable entrepreneur, you know, rugged entrepreneur. So basically, if you’re thinking about trademarking anything with the word preneur or entrepreneur in it, ‘Entrepreneur Magazine’ will stop you and they’ve been doing this for years. And, you know, what’s the threat? It’s not like someone running a coaching business called ‘The Unstoppable Entrepreneur’ is going to be confused with ‘Entrepreneur Magazine’.

Dan: Why do they do it then, what do you think the mindset is behind that sort of?

Sarah: I mean, it’s interesting because as a business that supposedly wants to help entrepreneurs, it seems really counterintuitive to be targeting small businesses trying to get a trademark that really aren’t a threat to you. I’m guessing they have a big law firm that said, ‘We need to enforce your rights’. But again, this is the exact definition of a ‘trademark bully’. So this is to the point of absurdity. It’s not a threat. If someone was starting, you know, ‘Entrepreneur online course magazine’, something that might be a conflict or might be confused. Yes, you want to step in, but a lot of these – they’re just they’re not going to be confused with it.

Dan: Yeah, let me give you an example then. Basically, we got an email from Expedia, who has an aeroplane in their insignia. And we have TropicalMBA that also had an aeroplane in our insignia. Expedia is a travel brokerage website. And they basically threatened us that if we didn’t change our logo, we were going to be taken to court and it was gonna be bad, bad news for us.

If you look at the aeroplanes and they’re clearly different aeroplanes. And they were like a similar colour. But like no one would ever be confused. You’d have to be a complete idiot to be confused about Expedia and TropicalMBA. So what is the appropriate response? Because they were so intimidating, they had a law firm involved, they talked about the money that would be involved. A nice German automobile was what it was gonna cost us and they were real dicks about it. What should you do when you receive an email like that?

Sarah: It’s unfortunate because to prove trademark infringement, you have to be able to prove that consumers would be confused by seeing both of your logos. And, as you just said, if you’re looking at a podcast and your aeroplane, nobody is going to think that you’re Expedia.com. So chances are, you probably would have won that you would have been able to keep using your logo, but it would have been tens of thousands of dollars later.

Dan Where would that money have been spent, in attorney fees?

Sarah: Yes. Of course, we can’t predict but I don’t think that you were infringing on Expedia’s trademark. I don’t think they would have won that case. Trademark law, very grey area, a lot of things go into it. And so when you end up in a trademark infringement case, it comes down to what the judge thinks, or what, if you’re in front of the trial and appeals board at USPTO. But there are bigger companies that have the cash. So for example, I had a client ..

Dan: I want to get to that story, but in this case, you know, we talked to a lawyer and, if I remember correctly, like one of the things is like, because this law firm is representing Expedia. Like that law firm might very well be incentivized to execute this case against you because this is a law firm’s business. It’s not Expedia’s necessarily so they I might find myself in court, do you think it they would have actually taken me to court?

Sarah: Yeah, I think they may have taken you to court. I think what’s unfortunate is we have no idea what Expedia actually knows. So this law firm could be saying, ‘We need this budget to protect your trademark, we’re going to charge you a million dollars a year for it’ and Expedia’s like, ‘Okay, like, we want to protect our trademark’. So then the law firm needs to do something. Now, I don’t know if that’s right. But

Dan: This is just like a hypothetical.

Sarah: Yes hypothetical of why else would they come after, again, like your aeroplane was different Expedia does have the logo, trademark, they do have you know that the small plane with the small wings, but yours was quite different. Your services are quite different. And so I have to think, unfortunately, that this is some attorneys that are just a little overzealous. And this is what they’re being paid to do whether or not Expedia actually knows that they’re doing it.

Dan: Well, I have a few other stories to share with you. I want to hear yours first. But I will say regarding that Expedia case, in particular, I got the sense that they meant business. I don’t know if it was Expedia but like, the way the lawyer was talking to us when you looked into their firm and, and what their stature was, I didn’t get the sense that this was some kind of money making scheme.

Sarah: Yeah, I have no doubt and that’s what they’re being paid to do is to scare you and intimidate you.

Dan: Is this why lawyers are unhappy, by the way? What about the person that’s actually doing this for a living? I mean, they must justify it to themselves in some way.

Sarah: I don’t know. I question it as well, you know, because to them, if you had fought it and they are taking you to court, it may have cost them six figures because their attorneys are probably way more expensive than, not that you wouldn’t get an expensive attorney but …

Dan: I wouldn’t. I would show up with my clipboard. And like my dad’s suit, I’d be like, ‘I’m defending myself’.

Sarah: I wish you would and I am tempted to start doing this a little bit because it upsets me.. I don’t think a lot of these trademark bullies have a case. They’re just intimidating. And so the story I was going to tell – I had a client we were going after a trademark. She owned like a small brick and mortar business in you know, it wasn’t this state, but let’s say North Carolina. I do my research. I didn’t see any big conflicts and the USPTO didn’t see any conflicts either. So when you get a trademark, you go through the process. And then at the end, there’s a 30 day opposition period where other trademark holders can come in and say, actually, we’re opposing this.

And so these trademark monitoring services are watching and it says, ‘Oh, this is coming .. the entrepreneur is coming up for opposition on January 15. We’re going to get ready to file our letter against them’. It’s published in this Official Gazette, it’s called so if your trademark gets there, then it means that the USPTO didn’t see a conflict. But this big company, you know, billion dollar company sent us a letter saying that they were opposing it because it infringed on their trademark.

No, there’s no scenario that someone would have walked into this brick and mortar store in North Carolina and thought that this billion dollar company was this store. It just was not in the realm. But this woman wasn’t going to spend $5 K to fight it. So we let them win and we settled. And actually we were able to settle so that she’s still got to keep the name of the store in North Carolina. We just had to agree that she wouldn’t start a franchise and she wouldn’t spread it around. So often you can settle with the big companies for something.

Dan: You mean by agreement? Like I will only use a trademark in a limited way.

Sarah: Exactly.

Dan: So I could have gone to Expedia maybe and said look, I promise to never do anything but a podcast with this little aeroplane.

Sarah: Yes, you could have.

Dan: Let me tell you another story. Sarah, a few months ago, I received an email, I’m like an old school blogger. That’s when I came up in the aughts and in the 2010s, guest posting was a big thing, and still is.

And one of the coolest things is like if you got interviewed for a BBC piece, or a Guardian piece, or a New York Times piece or whatever, that was like this huge coup, because then you could put it on your website that the New York Times has featured this blog. And so on our website, we’ve been fortunate enough to have written and been featured and all these cool publications and so we put their logos on a small area of our websites saying ‘Tropical MBA has been featured in Inc. magazine, and Forbes’, and all this kind of stuff.

And by the way, I must mention that Forbes leveraged us to grow their brand, they wanted content, we gave them coming intent and then we said Forbes featured us. So two months ago, a firm reaches out to me and says, ‘I work for Forbes. You can’t put their logo on your website unless you pay me a licencing fee’. It was a ridiculous sum. It was like $3,000 a year to save to have the Forbes logo on my website. What do you make of this? What’s happening here?

Sarah: Bullshit is what I make of it. I question if that person even works for or has any affiliation with Forbes, or that this wasn’t a total scam. So there are scams out there in the trademark world as well. My clients get mailings all the time that there’s a company asking for $1,000 to be published in the trademark dictionary. It’s not a thing.

So I think that was a scam because you can use logos like that as long as you say ‘featured in’, ‘as seen in’ because that’s a fact. And the thing with trademark infringement is you would have to show that someone would come to your website and think that you were working for Forbes or you were sponsored by Forbes, or something along those lines to be considered infringement. But just putting it there saying ‘as seen in’ that makes it clear you were seeing in is not a thing. And I promise you if you reached out to someone at Forbes, it would not be an issue. So I think that was a scam. And honestly, you might reach out to Forbes, their media department and just call this person out and be like somebody is taking advantage of your name and doing this.

Dan: And for the record, I’ll mention – I agree with you. When I traced it back it wasn’t quite a law firm but I will say it was a well executed scam in the sense that their copywriting was really good. It was like intimidating for real,

Sarah: Same thing with this scam going on at USPTO and it’s gotten so bad that when you get your trademark certificate it comes with a yellow sheet that’s like, ‘beware of these types of scams’ because you can’t really stop them and they do look legitimate. I have clients coming to me and saying, ‘I thought this was a flat fee and now they’re saying I have to pay 1500 dollars’, I’m like, ‘Toss it Don’t worry like that is a scam.’ So I’m 99% sure that that was a scam as well.

Dan: In the case that you are contacted by a scam artist. As entrepreneurs, we tend to be paranoid anyway and anxious about our business. Do you think it’s the right move when you see something that you think is a scam to just delete it? Or do you think that you should take action.

Sarah: So I think it depends. So for instance, the Expedia letter coming from a law firm you might have thought, ‘Is this for real?’ If it’s a legit law firm in that kind of situation, you probably want to look into it, send it to an attorney, But something like ‘I’m associated with Forbes or X company and I’m trying to get money’ or they’re asking for money. I think that is a big flag that it would be a scam, when they’re asking for money.

However, something that does happen and isn’t a scam is when someone is writing to you asking for money because you’ve used an image that is protected by copyright. And so this happens, unfortunately, because while it’s not a scam, that would be copyright bullying. So basically … In a way those images are protected. People shouldn’t be using them. You should always have a proper licence. But I know several people personally that have gotten letters from attorneys saying, ‘You used this photo on your blog on December 4 2017. This is registered copyright under this number, you owe us $3,000 in damages, or we’re taking you to court’. That’s real, right?

And so you have to either pay that or settle for a lesser amount, or they could take you to court for even more. So, in terms of copyright infringement, that can happen. But if it is something like the Forbes thing where you’re like, ‘I’m not the only one that does this. A lot of people are doing this. This seems kind of sketchy’. You know, I think deleting is fine, and if they are serious, then they would reach out again.

Dan: Does it matter like in those images cases, when they go to court. Does it matter the intention behind?

Sarah: It doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, under copyright law, it is statutory, meaning if you do it, you’re responsible no matter what, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t know, you didn’t mean to, your VA did it. And so that’s why, with images, you really just want to make sure you’re either paying for stock photos, or you’re using something that is totally free and just like check the licence and the terms to make sure because ..

Dan: Who is out there protecting images like that.

Sarah: So artists and photographers are hiring attorneys to police this.

Dan: Kind of cool, good for them.

Sarah: Yeah.

Dan: Let me read you an email from a listener: “Hey, guys, an attorney just contacted me. The purpose of the communication was to request that I quote voluntarily transfer my domain name registration to his client, because it collides with the trademark rights of his client. If I do not comply with the request, they will consider that I reject the amicable solution to the conflict and will feel free to take the appropriate legal actions to preserve their legitimate interests and rights. I argued it was not bad faith that I registered my domain name and that my activity wasn’t at all similar. They don’t seem to understand and tell me that it is a case of typosquatting, an obvious or intentional misspelling of a trademark. They offer me 300 bucks. All this story reminds me of a previous episode in which you talked about your logo issues. I’ve never listened to the conclusion of the story”.

So to summarise it, they’re not asking for money, they’re actually offering money to collect the domain that a listener has that could be confused with their registered trademark. So what’s your take on this?

Sarah: So my take on this is this is another example of a trademark bully in another way trying to take advantage of a smaller company. So they don’t have a case. So there’s something called the ‘Anti cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act’. And what that is, it does create a cause of action for businesses that might have a ‘bad faith intent’ in registering a domain name or using a trademark. Typo squatting would be changing a letter, or like for Google, instead of two O’s, it’s three and then it leads you to a bad site or something like that. So it does exist.

But the big thing is you have to be able to show bad faith. So for example, I use the Kardashians a lot in some of my content because they have 700 trademarks and they’re crazy but Kylie Kardashian just filed a lawsuit against a company because they filed a trademark two years ago or something after her daughter Stormy was born. They filed a trademark for ‘Stormy Coulture’. And so there is a pretty good argument there that they did that in bad faith, knowing that Kylie eventually would probably want that trademark. And so they’re gonna settle that in court.

But the thing is, not only do you need bad faith, it also has to be a similar industry. So for example, one of my trademarks that I’ve registered is ‘Protect Your Passion’. Okay? I don’t have the website for that, unfortunately, ‘Protect Your Passion dot com’, for whatever reason, redirects to a Dutch car dealership.

I can’t go to this Dutch car dealership and be like, ‘You’re infringing on my trademark’ because we’re in totally different industries. I’m legal, they’re selling cars, nobody would go to that website, and think, ‘Oh, this is this Destination Legal? Is this Sarah?’ Of course not.

So to the person that wrote in, unless you’re in a very similar industry that someone would come to your website and think that it’s this other company, and that it’s confusingly similar, you don’t need to worry, it sounds like this company just wants the domain and they’re going to threaten you to get it, but you don’t have to sell it. And so you never have to sell it.

The only caveat to this is if they own the trademark, and it was a similar industry, and there might be an argument for infringement, you wouldn’t necessarily use it, but you don’t have to sell it. And if they want to bring you to court over this, that’s fine. But you would still have to prove that it was done in bad faith. And it doesn’t sound like it was so …

Dan: So someone owns ‘Topical MBA’. And if I were to go to that website, and it looked a lot like ours, and they were trying to make money on affiliate commissions, I’ve got a legal case. Whereas if it’s ‘Topical MBA’ where it’s like a news podcast that is blue instead of yellow,

Sarah: And talking about business schools. Yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s a good example there.

Dan: In the case of the listener who wrote in, one option he has is he said, ‘Well, I’m not using this domain. It’s not an infringement. But this is a money making opportunity now because they’re concerned about it’. If he comes back and says, ‘Well, why don’t you give me 5000? And then I’ll give you the domain’. Does that indicate a bad faith on his part?

Sarah: No, absolutely not. And without this being legal advice -go for it, see what you can get. He has no legal obligation to sell it, to give it to them and clearly they want it and they lowballed him. So I would definitely go back with a higher number.

Dan: If I asked you to be evil, Sarah for a moment? Do you think you could make a lot of money being a legal bully?

Sarah: Yes, I do. I don’t know that that’s why ‘Entrepreneur Magazine’ is doing this. I don’t know how much money they’re making. There’s some figures that like trademark infringement lawsuits can be money makers, and for sure the attorneys doing this are making money as well. It’s unfortunate because it’s an example of the big guns taking advantage of the smaller people.

Dan: What sort of general advice you have for most of us who would consider ourselves .. we’re not the big guns, we’re not billion dollar companies. What’s the move for us? Generally speaking,

Sarah: Well, the move is to get a trademark right. So if you are building a brand, the only way to really protect it is to own it. And so then you won’t have to worry about someone coming after your domain or coming after you. If you had registered, your logo, Expedia wouldn’t have been able to come after you at that point.

And so a trademark is, you know, a couple thousand compared to a lot of time and money if you end up in some kind of infringement lawsuit. So I do think trade brand or name or logo, if it’s something that your business is invested in, is something that can really help a smaller business feel more empowered and confident against these bullies.

Dan: What’s your advice for people seeking legal counsel? It can be frustrating dealing with lawyers because they sometimes overcomplicate situations, and there’s like a lot of paper shuffling and it’s not exactly clear what the results gonna be. And then you just get this big bill. Now honestly, a lot of my interactions with lawyers have been like that. What’s your take on that?

Sarah: So I agree, unfortunately, like I had someone come to me the past couple of weeks, really upset because an attorney she used for trademark did it incorrectly and then charged her like 500 bucks just to send her a letter. And I was just like, ‘This is what gives lawyers a bad name’ unfortunately.

However, there are good attorneys out there, there are people that will talk to you that have your best interests at heart. There are a lot of small business attorneys, you know, smaller law firms, online attorneys that really just want to help and provide good information. And so, if you have questions, I would seek out those. And it’s always good to have an attorney that you know, and trust kind of in your back pocket for when these types of questions come up.

Dan: It’s like hiring or dating or something. You don’t want to just like decide on the spot that you need this and then it’s really something you want to do by going to events or joining communities, like you want to know, that’s been my experience, because the law isn’t something that’s super cut and dry. So it’s this issue of being able to talk through an issue and problem solve with your lawyer and be on the same page about how your what your strategy is going to be. It feels like with our small businesses, not all things are cut and dry.

Sarah: Absolutely, you know, the law in general is pretty grey. But I think, as a business grows, just having someone that you can talk to, you know, with COVID, I had a lot of people come to me that had to cancel retreats. They had clients wanting to get out of contracts, just had a lot of questions. And I think I was able to give them a sense of relief and security on certain things and so on having h that in your back pocket can be really valuable.

Dan: All right, Sarah Kornblet. Thanks are sorry, I can’t even pronounce your new name.

Sarah: I know. Sarah Kornblet Waldbuesser. It’s German actually. You can blame my husband.

Dan: I blame your husband. Sarah, thanks for joining us on the TMBA pod.

Sarah: Thank you for having me. As always, really fun.

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Dan: Shout out to Sarah for swinging by the show and talking a little shop with us, appreciate what she’s done over the years, sort of helping us to navigate, sometimes tricky issues and big bummer that all these scams and bullies exist out there, using these tactics to try and extract money from entrepreneurs.

And what’s even worse is like the legitimate companies that are blindly tossing their money at this stuff. Not a big fan, as if we need another challenge in our life. Although, I will say, it’s pretty amazing. Maybe entrepreneurs a generation before us didn’t have that opportunity to genuinely pick and choose the legal jurisdictions that we operate in, what sort of regulatory frameworks we interact with.

So a pretty amazing opportunity exists for us to stay more focused on creating value for our customers, rather than going through legal red tape. So something for us all to think about.

Also, before we get off I just wanna give a shout out to our sponsor, Earth Class Mail. Really appreciate to have them on board.

That’s it for this week. Email us, comment, share with us your legal woes stories. We use your comments and emails to inspire episodes like this. So we appreciate you guys reaching out and letting us know what sort of challenges you’re facing on a day to day basis. And speaking of helping you get through those challenges. We will be back as always, next Thursday morning 8am Eastern Standard Time.

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